The Generals Handbook review is here! I have a copy of the book and cover the contents in this episode.
I talk about points, campaigns, allegiance abilities, how summoning and army building works and lots more.
I was lucky enough to be sent a (signed!) copy of the generals handbook to say thanks for helping with the play testing and here is my review of the book.
The Generals Handbook Review video
The episode is available via the podcast but also on YouTube.
Hello and welcome to the Bad Dice Podcast. This episode I am going to be doing a Generals Handbook review. I have got my copy right here and if you are watching the YouTube video you can actually see the copy in the background. I am lucky enough to get an early copy for review and it kind of also ties into the fact that we were brought in, myself and some of the other guys, to do a show on this before and do some play testing and got to meet the team behind The Generals Handbook. I am lucky to get my hands on it early for a review of the book and this is what this episode or YouTube show if you are watching on YouTube is going to be all about.
Setting the tone
First off, I want to talk a bit about The Generals Handbook itself. Obviously everyone in my circle of friends, (because I am a hardcore tournament gamer some might say or I used to be, I used to think I used to I suppose) A lot of people are mainly interested in the points but one thing that is really apparent is you get ahold of this book and read through the book, go through all the different aspects of the book, it is actually not just all about that. There is enough stuff in there that if you are not even in the slightest bit interested in points values or any of that, you do not want anyone telling you how to play your games, you want to do what you are doing and have been doing for a long time and carry on that way, then you are just fine. There is plenty in this book for you. I am going to go down some of the key points of the book and then we will come back and readdress and look down in more depth at some of the details of it as well.
What you got here is basically a complete toolbox of rules and they can combine in any way your gaming group likes. That is the important thing. The way your gaming group wants to play you can use this book to tweak your gaming to suit your group. I think that is really cool and there is a couple of aspects of that as well.
One of the things I really like is I think it is on the first couple of pages there is a spread in there which looks like it is from the old rule book. So the old editions or anyone playing Age of Sigmar and not having played any other editions might not know this – the first few pages in the book just set the tone out for the whole game. It told you what you can and cannot do with the rules and a lot of the time it really went into fact that it is just a game. They have the most important rule section in there and this Generals Handbook is the same. It tells you that although this is a guide on ways to play – four different ways of organizing campaigns, lots of different narrative and open gaming rules in there as well and the four pitch battle points system – although there is all that in here, if you guys want to do something different then you very well can continue it. It really does stress that.
So anyone out there and I have seen a lot of this week on the social media, people saying ‘uh it’s going to be the worse thing that happened to the game.’ You know it is not because this book has got an absolute ton of battle plans and tons of wars that you can use and play and you do not even have to worry about the points. If your opponent wants to come and count all the points in his army, you can still just put down what you like and if you do that and your opponent thinks it is over the top or to under you have that discussion the same as you would now, I suppose, because you do not have a copy of the book. In a weeks time or two weeks time or three weeks time, whenever you are going to be playing this, you can figure things out and this book just gives you a guideline. Enough of that. I suppose I better get into talking about what is actually in the book.
We have four rules for four different ways of organizing your campaigns. This is Path to Glory. This is kind of building a war band. You get your general. You choose a general and it tells you how you can pick different units to go with our general. You can give yourself extra glory points instead of taking additional units and you can build your war bundle as you are going along. The more glory you gain, it is basically a race to 10 points in the book to pick a winner. Now you can make a smaller one if you want. You can make a bigger one. You can change that but this gives you a guide of how to progress through that campaign.
There is also it tells you how to take battle plans and join them together. There is a matrix system campaign where you can play a first game, look on the system of what was the result of that game, go on to the next one and take it from there. That is really cool.
There is also a ladder system which shows you how to win a competitive league style game, where if you win games you climb the league. If you lose games you move back down.
The final system is a map campaign similar to the Mightys empires of old.
Moving on from the campaigns as we have already talked about the open system do what you like, that is still in there. There is actually some really cool narrative in the narrative section about how to play big battles using some of the really cool characters. There is a full battle in the Narrative section with Archaon versus Nagash including a full army list of what is included on both sides. So if you wanted to recreate the exact battle it tells you how to do that, what units to use and what each player is going to using on each side and it actually pitched at using nine players per game. I think one side has four and one side has five players. It is a really clever way of getting all your toys on the table, having a big battle and also following an exact storyline if you prefer. I quite like that.
Into the Pitched battle section and this is kind of the points and additional rules and there are some really really nice stuff in here. Before you get into the points there is actually new rules that apply to all your other games so rather than just being points and army building sections these are actually going to be able to be used in open play, also narrative play, and your Pitched battle tournament style play. If you want to you can use them. There are Alligance abilities so you are going to be getting Alligance traits, command traits and artifacts that you can use in any of your games. What that means basically is if you are in a faction or if you are in an Alliance your chaos, death, order, destruction, you are going to get different bonuses for fighting in those Alliances. Then you get your command traits and your artifacts that you can give to your characters in those games as well. That is really nice.
The Alligance traits, what is cool about them is when you start looking through the book and thinking you are trying to get all the Easter eggs, new stuff, although the book is brand new and you want to … You are always looking for more things, aren’t you? More information. There is a section in there telling you how the Alligance traits apply to the different Alliances but there is also a section telling you how to apply them if you are alligent to a single faction. You all have the key word, Stormcast eternals, you can then choose whether you are going to be Alligant to your Alliance or whether you are preferring to be Stormcast eternal. Hopefully down the line we might get some more army specific or faction specific abilities which I think will be very cool. It has opened up a whole new way to add extra cool stuff to the game going forward which I think is really nice.
We have our new battle traits, our command traits and our artifacts. Now the command traits and artifacts, they get given to your characters in your armies. There are different ways of generating these. You can roll a random dice or you can pick them. I think what is cool about choosing them is you can actually build your faction around a trait so if you see one particular trait that you like the look of and you think oh my character you know he does this thing and he should have this ability or he has this sword and it should be this magic sword, you can then build that into your army it could fight in a certain way because your general has got this certain ability or item. I think that is really a nice way of doing things. But it does leave it totally open to if you wanted to randomly generate one, if you are playing a campaign, or maybe tournament games might bring the house all in future, it is totally you have the option to do that as well. I think that is very cool. That is some of the Alligance abilities.
War Scroll Points and Compendiums
Now obviously there is points for every war scroll currently in Age of Sigmar. I have been asked a lot if the Silver Tower warscrolls are in the book. At this time they are not. It will be interesting to see how they get added to the release at a later date.
The compendiums are all in there so if you are playing any of the older games, older armies and compendiums, we have all the death, destruction, we have all that stuff in there as well but then you have a whole section right in the back on compendium pitch battle profiles. We have dark elves, dwarfs, brettonians, all that sort of stuff is in there. Had a question about tomb kings – Yes, tomb kings are in there as well. So that is quite cool. All the old stuff it might be dead but it is not forgotten. If you have an old army, you are thinking about getting back into the game, you do not have to the new stuff to play the new points. There is something in there for you as well.
Now in the pitched battle section there is really cool liked boxed out in the book which explains what you can do if you go to a tournament and it tells you house rules and tournament and clubhouse rules and how they might apply to your games. I think this is really nice. What they are saying to you is we have a full tournament system here that you can use and it is exactly what I am going to be using in an event that I am going in because it is easy. You know I could pick up this book, I can tell my players to read the book, and come and play their sort of games. But the next tournament over might think we want to do something a bit different. If we do not like the idea of battle line units I may want to let people bring whatever they like instead.
There is a section in the book which explains that this is totally fine. Not only is it fine you should be encouraged to do it. It is really good to see people having their own house rules, playing in their own way, and not being restricted to one certain set of game play and one certain way of playing. It is nice that they took the time a couple of different places in the book. It is not just in one section of the start. The theme throughout the whole book is really do what you like, play what you like, here are some really cool ways to play that we think are really good and fun and if you want to do that great. But you know it is up to you. It is your hobby, it is your game, and totally play it your own way if you want to.
Battle Line Units
What we have next, I suppose I can talk about some of the army selection rules because this is something that people are really interested in. One of the big changes and big editions, I should say, is battle line units. Now what battle line units are basically your core troops from your army. This is what we use to see in previous editions. There is no kind of restrictions on the amount of points you can spend on things. If you are playing a 2,000 point army, you would have to bring at least three battle line units and they have a nice little chart in the box showing different points levels, different minimum size battle line units. You are going to have to bring at least three of them. Now in your Alliance, so if you have a chaos Alliance, there might be a lot of battle line units to choose from but when you start drilling down into smaller factions then it becomes very faction related as to what you can bring so certain units. I think Stormcast have got access to liberators and judicators as their battle line units. You cannot bring an army that is just Paladins and Dracoth Riders and things like that anymore.
What I have noticed from looking at South Coast GT Armies a lot, so the battle line units is one of the biggest things I have seen affect South Coast GT versus Generals Handbooks points. South Coast GT is a big event recent event so it is easy to see the lists online and just do a quick comparison of what people are bringing and using. Now when you look at the rules and the points you will see that it is 2,000 points to 100 points. You know, you times it by 20 it is there or about. There is a bit of similarity. I have noticed a trend that monsters are a bit more expensive in this than they are in the South Coast. But the battle line units, I think, is the one that will be the biggest difference people might have not had so many battle line units before and now they have been sort of pushed into the fact that they are going to have to start fielding these units. So that is battle line units.
There are a couple of other cool things with regards to army selection. There is now a kind of a limit on the amount of monsters and war machines you can bring. I have counted four in matched play and there is at least one hero. So you have to have a character or a leader to lead your force which is very nice because I know the option to make a unit champion your general was cool but it is not really full of fear and thematics so actually being forced to bring a character I think is pretty good.
The 3 rules of one
Now the other big question on kind of like rules changes, army lists, impact, and there are the three rules of one which I think is very cool. This is going to have one of the biggest impacts on actual playing the game once you are at the table. Now the three rules of one are: Number one, you can only attempt to cast a spell once. So if you try to cast mystic shield and fail, another wizard cannot cast that same spell, which is pretty good. The second rule of one, ones always fail whether it is to hit, wound, to arm or save, always fail on a one. The third rule of one, any attacks or with any kind of repeat Ripperdactyl style, hits and wounds that generate extra attacks can only do it once. So those rippers which come out of the sky and have infinite loop of attacks and hits and wounds, can only generate one extra attack so you cannot keep piling on the attack. Those three, I think the first one in particular, not being able to cast the same spell more than once is a huge change.
There are a couple of reason why I am really excited about it. First off at the moment what you find is your wizards just cast mystic shield and then when things get heavy they cast all came about. Now and again you will find a good wizard with a good spell and you take that wizard just for that spell but now I think you might see it a bit more variety or you will see less wizards in general because if you have one wizard and you need mystic shield once that is great. You have lost the ability now to expand mystic shield across the army. So you might be more inclined to take out of more units, less characters or more just like beat stick fighting characters and I think that is probably a positive thing. I quite like that.
Hitting, wounding, and arms or saves failing on a one I think that is something that we have had already. In most of the tournament house rules that is a great example. Then the other one the generating extra hits I am pretty like not seeing for either way on that. Yes it is a powerful ability and yes it needs capped but what you find is most people either cap it by making the unit cost a lot of points or cap it already by stopping the endless infinite loop of attack span. So that is one that has generally been dealt with in the house rules.
While on the subject of house rules and I talked earlier about the house rule section, measuring to the bases is not in the Generals Handbook as rule but they do site that specifically as one of the house rules that a lot of people play to. They explain that it might have an impact on the game for measurements and differences like that but it does not mean you do not have to stack your models up on top of each other and that is a house rule that a lot of people play to. I think it is quite nice that they fit that in there and it just goes to show that these house rules are encouraged so it is a really nice way of doing things.
The next major rule change or difference in the match play section is summoning. The way summoning works is really, I think it is quite nice, quite elegant way of doing things and a lot of the STK, South Coast GT, and crush packs is kind of a little bit convoluted the way they do things. The way it is done in the Generals Handbook is it is simple as you work out your army, so if you playing 2,000 points that is great, and if you start the game you can decide to leave say 300, 500, 1700, or whatever points on the side to summon later.
The way you do this is as you cast a summoning spell you just when you deploy that you just deduct them points from what you have remaining in your summoning pool. It is as simple as that really. So if I was playing death and I wanted to bring unit skeletons on, I do not know the points of skeletons off the top of my head, but let’s say that 100 points for 10 – I do not know if that is right or not – and if I got 1,700 point army I could then summon in an extra 30 skeletons onto the table and that would count as my summoning pool or spent. Now I could do this all in one go if the spell is allowing it or I could do it in jibs and jabs of different spells and working out each unit as I come to them and that is it really. It is really simple.
Now I have heard a lot of people saying that is a nerf to summoning compared to other ways that it has been played already. It possibly is, having to pay for your points for the units that you put on the board, shock collar. You know, terrible that you had to pay for it like the rest of us. But in a way it is sort of quite cool because those units cannot be killed until they are on the table so you can keep them safe in reserve and then kind of deep strike them where you need them later which is something I have heard referred to.
Some armies make more use for it than others and there is also things like summoning a holo which then summons flamers which can then shoot some things, get in line of silent angles. There is a lot of use for keeping summoning in reserve and bringing them onto the table when you need them. Just simple things like an undead player putting that unit of skeletons down, a key point just to get in the way of another unit that wanted to charge through a gap on the following turn and do some damage and now there is unit skeletons there to hold them up where your fragile units might want to retreat. That is just one tactic that I can think of where summoning [inaudible 00:17:17] way of that without drilling down into it too much. So I quite like the way this has been done and I think it is a lot easier for management at the table as well, rather than having to work out well this unit is this many points and a half there. It is a bit simpler to just you know these are the points.
Now one thing I have seen asked as well is do you need to list the units that you are going to be summoning. No it does not say that in the book. I kind of guess that is a house rule that will come in at tournaments to try to make it easier, to streamline it a bit so you do not get undead players tournament with just all the undead and demon players tournament with all the demons. I think you might find that is streamlined with a house rule book. The way it plays in the Generals Handbook is just deploy the unit and off you go.
Pitched Battle Battleplans
One last thing I want to talk about before we wrap this show up and that is the match play battle plans because I think these are really nice. They are certainly the things my gaming group are going to play a lot of, I can see. I can also see a lot of tournaments playing it a lot. These are going to be the six scenarios like from the old editions what you are going to want to learn off by heart because they are going to played and played and played. Let’s just turn to them.
We have taken hold, blood and glory, and these two are ones that can actually end the game instantly if you achieve a certain wind condition. We have escalation and border war. Escalation you split your army up into thirds and then bring them onto the board, one, two, and three turns in. So that is quite cool. You also score on the objectives on both of these on each of your turns. So a player controls an objective if at the end of any turn they have more models from their army within six of the objectives then they are enemy models within six. So that is one way of scoring, them too both the same. In the first game, it scores a bit different. You have to have no enemy models within six to claim it.
Then on the final two games three places of power and gift from the heavens these are different again. Three places of power you have scoring across the center. In gifts from the heavens you have your objectives showing up randomly during the game which I think is very cool. I really like that. Now the way you score in both of these is at the end of each of your turns you score victory points equal to the current number of turns or current round that you are on. So if you control the meteor on turn one then you score one point. If you control it on turn 5 then you score five points. So I am not clever enough to figure out how to play that! … Turn 5 scoring five points and if you captured two of them that is 10 points that can be a massive swing later in the game. So I think you will find it will be one of those where it is important to set yourself up for a late turn grab but not let your opponent get a runaway victory early on. It is going to be interesting to see how they all pan out.
So for events like my one day event, these three different types of scenario there and two scenarios for each type so we will just pick and probably play one, three and six or something like that. one or two, three or four, five or six. We won’t play one, two, three. I think that is quite cool to give some variation.
Overall the Generals Handbook massive thumbs up. I mean if you are listening to this and you are not sure whether the book is for you then I think you are crazy to be honest. It is every Age of Sigmar player out there will want to get their hands on this book. Points for all your armies. What is nice about that as well is points in this book instead of in battle tomes says to me that you always have options to tweak it down the line whereas having to tweak all the battle tomes for all the factions could be a nightmare. Whereas changing one Generals Handbook and reissuing it with new sets of points and updated for any battle tome that are going to be coming out in the future, I think it is a great way of doing things.
I am really excited about this book. There are tons of battle plans. There are a few tons of war in there. Campaigns. Everything for any player in the game. It has definitely got glowing review from me. But I think, you know, anyone who has listened to Bad Dice and knows the sort of things I am into can kind of guess at that anyway. Definitely go and get it. It is going to be out soon and you know if you are into the Age of Sigmar, even if you are not, but if you run a gaming club and there are players down there who are on the fence, you can take it down and show them. This will get new player into the game and I am very excited about the next six months in the Age of Sigmar because this book is …
It is just as if a whole new edition has come out so it is a great time to be in the Age of Sigmar
That was my Generals Handbook Review. If you have any questions at all about this episode feel free to get in touch.
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